October 23, 2015
William D. Adams,
Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities
600 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Excerpts from a recently published article in The Atlantic by Chairman Adams:
... This is what it means to live in time and history. Just as soon as there’s a feeling of certainty that the U.S. has understood and come to terms with the past, something happens that suggests the country didn’t really understand after all. So Americans are forced back upon themselves. They pick up the threads once again, hoping to gain a better understanding.
This same logic applies to the political values and ideals that measure self-knowledge and progress. U.S. democracy rests in part on a familiar tradition of political thought and aspiration. But the core elements of that tradition are not self-sustaining. They have to be engaged and reengaged, generation by generation, and fitted to the circumstances of the present day. The country can’t expect to sustain a vibrant and genuinely democratic political culture without active engagement. The tradition of democratic thought and aspiration also means engaging history. But tradition is empty, or at best abstract, if it is not attached to the concrete ways in which it has been lived, tested, and transformed over time. The democratic faith and the messy history of American democracy are two sides of the same coin.
Read the full article in The Atlantic